No one expects that they will ever be involved in a serious accident. However, statistically, most drivers will be involved in a car accident at some point in their lives.
Of course, when it comes to the type and extent of injuries caused by an accident, there is significant variance. Certainly, many accidents are minor, resulting in only bumps, bruises, and a mild case of whiplash. However, on the other end of the spectrum, some accidents cause severe and debilitating injuries.
In the case of a minor accident, motorists may be fine to go about their way and get checked out by a doctor at their convenience. And in very serious car accidents, emergency responders will transport the accident victim to the emergency room. Knowing what to expect after an accident is most challenging – and most important – for those accidents that fall in between these two extremes.
How Serious Are My Injuries?
This is one of the frequently asked questions from those who have recently been in a car accident. After the immediate shock of the accident wears off, accident victims are often in a lot of pain. However, it can be difficult to tell normal post-accident pain from the pain that could indicate that something is seriously wrong. Of course, the best option is for an accident victim to head to the doctor to get evaluated.
Getting checked out by a medical professional after an accident is critically important not only to the accident victim’s health but also to the success of any personal injury case they plan to bring against the at-fault parties. Many serious, long-term injuries do not manifest any symptoms until well after the accident. For example, soft tissue injuries, including those to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, may seem minor at first. The pain associated with these injuries is generally relatively minor and can easily be confused with generalized soreness attributable to the accident.
However, soft tissue injuries can be very serious if not adequately treated. What starts off as manageable but lingering pain can turn into something much harder to live with.
Common examples of soft tissue injuries include:
- Sprains – A sprain occurs when a ligament is torn or stretched to the point where it is damaged. Sprains come in three classifications. The least serious is a Grade 1 sprain, which results from mild damage caused by overstretching a ligament. Grade 2 sprains occur when the ligament is partially torn. Finally, Grade 3 sprains indicate that the ligament was completely torn. Grade 3 sprains result in the loss of function of the affected joint.
- Strains – A strain is an injury to a tendon or muscle. Typically the result of stretching, strains most often affect the back, neck, and legs. Symptoms of a strain include muscle weakness, cramping, spasms, and inflammation.
- Whiplash – Whiplash occurs when the head violently moves back and forth. Whiplash is one of the most common car-accident related injuries. Whiplash rarely is noticeable immediately after an accident. However, once it sets in, whiplash causes neck stiffness, back and neck pain, and, in severe cases, cognitive impairment. Mild cases of whiplash may go away on their own in a few weeks; however, more serious cases can take months to get better.
- Contusions – Contusion is the medical term for a bruise. Contusions occur when the muscle fibers and connective tissue under the skin are damaged without causing a break in the skin.
What makes soft tissue injuries dangerous is not the severity of the injury – although the lasting impact of a soft tissue injury can be debilitating. The real problem with soft tissue injuries is that they are rarely treated appropriately. By ignoring – or by incorrectly self-diagnosing – a soft tissue injury, accident victims increase the risk of needing surgical intervention down the road.
Proper Treatment of Soft Tissue Injuries
No two injuries are the same, and nothing online is a substitute for personalized medical attention. However, many soft tissue injuries are treated through the RICE method. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Although the RICE method is effective in many cases, more serious soft tissue injuries may require the immobilization of the affected area and a course of physical therapy.
The forces involved in a car accident are tremendous, capable of causing a variety of serious issues – some less noticeable than others. Those who have been involved in a serious accident should consult with a doctor to rule out any serious, long-term damage. In addition, accident victims dealing with extensive medical bills may consider reaching out to a car accident attorney to discuss their options for pursuing a claim against the at-fault parties.